by C Michael PattonMarch 5th, 2013 7 Comments
Theological Avoidance fallacy: n. Thinking theology is impractical for true Christian living.
This is very common in our world. It is also, to some degree, understandable. People are tired of “searching” for answers and have decided to just enjoy the journey. While it may not be called “emerging” anymore, the mood is still present and represents a large portion of our culture and church.
For these, the search has brought them nothing but confusion and disillusionment. There are so many things they used to believe—used to passionately believe—that they no longer believe. They are embarrassed about their former commitments. Because of this, the best approach to theological issues is a sort of “soft agnosticism.” In other words, people are not saying that truth does not exist, they are simply saying that they don’t know what it is and they don’t think you do either.
As a coping mechanism, theology is distanced from “practical” (Christian) living. Orthodoxy (right thinking) is disassociated with orthopraxy (right living).
A few words of advice for those who find themselves here or heading here:
1. There is no way to distance yourself from theology. Even the belief that theology is impractical for Christian living is a theological belief. One would have to assume quite a bit about theology in order to make such an assertion. Agnosticism is a theological stance, and quite a complex one at that. You are a theologian, whether you like it or not. The question is, can you give sufficient warrant for your beliefs?
2. No one can live rightly without believing rightly. Most fundamentally, people act according to what they believe. As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” A better version of this is, “You are what you believe.” Just because there is the possibility that you could be wrong, this does not justify an apathetic attitude toward theology. I appreciate people’s timidity, and I wish that some people had more. We dare not take the Lord’s name in vain. Silence is often better than speaking. But to harden oneself into such a philosophy is the most dangerous proposition of all. When our practice is devoid of foundational beliefs, we will be carried about by every wave and current of thought, simply ascribing to that which seems most pragmatic at the time. Today, it is faddish to be apathetic toward theology. But this is not Christian. The Christian worldview is about theology first. It is about who Christ is. It is about what God has done. It is about following a definite person – one we can point to and distinguish from all others. It is about a definite hope. If you were to take these away, the who? what? why? and where? of our practice is void. Therefore, our practice is void.
Christianity rests primarily on what we believe, not what we do. What we do is a product of what we believe. Practice without belief does not please the Lord. There is simply no room for it in the Christian life.
3. Get over the fear of being wrong. Like the jilted lover who fails to seek a new relationship because of the possibility of being hurt (again), many people fail to believe because of the possibility of being wrong (again). We are all going to be wrong about many things. But, there are many things that we are going to be right about. The Lord assumes such. The Proverbs commands us to be wise: “Acquire truth and do not sell it” (Prov. 23:23). You may have been jilted by truth before. Our way is called a “narrow gate.” You may be scared of recommitting yourself to the search. You may think you are beyond commitment. But you must make it anyway.
Who ever said the Christian life was easy? If you are looking for an easy life, join in with the world. There you can find enough apathy. Here, in Christianity, we are called to go against the current. We are expected take a road less traveled. We pick ourselves back up time and time again and continue the journey, knowing that there is a definite destination. The Christian life is about new beginnings.
My encouragement to those of you who are sick of theology is to stand back up. Let go of the assumptions that led you to think that it must always be easy. The truth is like gold, fine gold. The truth will produce in you fruit that the infertile ground of apathy cannot ever yield. Don’t commit yourself to the mire of disillusionment. So you have been wrong before. So what? So you have been misled before. So what? So you have fallen and been humiliated. So what? What did you expect? Get up. Just be careful. Learn from your mistakes. But open yourself up again to commitment. Don’t live a life of apathy. Take the road less traveled.
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